I was very fortunate to have spent some quality time with Ken Howard. Here was a guy who was a professional in his field – acting. But he also was a quality labor leader. He picked up his role on the executive council of the AFL-CIO fast, asked the right questions, and gave the right answers. I would often text him or email him over the last few years, and he always responded. I went to see his last two movies that he had a role in, and told him I enjoyed The Judge and Joy. We worked on the merger of his union a few years back. I have been retired for almost three years, so I haven't seen Ken for a while, but we did stay in contact. He promoted the labor movement with his role as President of SAG-AFTRA, and always mentioned the members in all of his presentations. He will be missed by many, but he will be especially missed by me. He was truly a special person, someone I enjoyed spending time with. God bless Ken Howard, you’re getting a good one.
-James Williams, President Emeritus, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
Ken Howard was a wonderful actor and fighter for the well-being of workers. His leadership in unifying SAG and AFTRA was an inspiration to all of us. The International Labor Communications Association has long appreciated the support of SAG-AFTRA under his leadership and value the very fine example of professional labor communications he has nurtured at your union. We will miss him but know his legacy of unity and excellence will live on.
-Howard L. Kling, President, International Labor Communications Association
We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear President Ken Howard and want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with your company and his family. Our sincerest condolences.
-ACTORES S.C.G. team
As a president Unión de Actores y Actrices of Spain my condolences go to Ken's family. We appreciate his service to SAG-AFTRA and he was a leader for every actor over the world. Deepest condolences. May he rest in peace.
-Iñaki Guevara, Secretario General, Unión de Actores y Actrices
Kent State University's School of Theatre and Dance is saddened to learn of the passing of alumnus and SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. Ken Howard graduated from Kent State University in 1999 with a Master of Fine Arts in Acting as the School of Theatre and Dance's first returning professional graduate student. "Ken Howard's passion to return to higher education and examine his life's work through graduate study brought him to Kent State in the late 1990s," said Eric van Baars, School of Theatre and Dance interim director. "His plan of study set the foundation for the School of Theatre and Dance's current returning professional program. The entire School of Theatre and Dance sends condolences to his family."
- Kent State University's School of Theatre and Dance
How painful to say farewell to my friend of 53 years. I cannot speak of Ken in the past tense. It’s too soon and much too sad. We sang together in college. Ken was our “front man,” the guy to spoke to the audience, improvising jokes, working the room. He was fearless and funny as hell. He learned a great deal about acting from that youthful experience, and often said so. Ken was the “big man on campus” in those years, physically big, with an equally big heart. Great singer, drama star, best player on the basketball team. And a true intellectual, as comfortable in philosophy class as on the stage or court. He took it all seriously, but with a sense of humor about himself. He was a generous friend, too. Never too big to forget that. Ken at 19, Ken at 70. He seemed the same to me. Big kid, big soul. Enthusiastic. Endless range of interests. And always that big warm laugh. I will always hear that laugh. I want to call him right now and just say hello.
-Jeremy N. Williams, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Warner Bros.
I remember watching the SAG Awards during our merger campaign and process, when Ken gave a shout-out to SAG-AFTRA and with that little gesture gave an imprimatur to the concept of our new union to the world wide audience, and the applause and cheers it elicited within the room. He just elegantly "nailed it," and legitimized the brand with that simple sentence! I will always hold our friendship and union service together close to my heart. He considered being President of SAG-AFTRA and the opportunity it provided him to serve and represent our membership as the true capstone of his career. He believed we were not here to run it, but were here to help guide it. It was always his belief and focus to elevate our union and appeal to the best of our nature for the common good for all of our vast membership. In Hawaii, “Aloha” means hello and goodbye, and so Ken with the words from "Aloha 'Oi"...."farewell to thee, farewell to thee....until we meet again"....when we can say "E'Komo Mai." Welcome - and "Aloha" - Hello! God speed, pal! Mahalo nui'loha!
-Clyde Kusatsu, Vice President, Los Angeles and Los Angeles Local Board member
I remember meeting Ken for the first time in early spring 2008. There was a whole room full of people having cocktails and conversation. I looked over and he was standing nearly in the middle of the room just surveying things. I saw that as my chance to introduce myself to the White Shadow. I had admired his work, and he had worked with someone I had known for a long time. Little did I know, that meeting would result in one of the strongest friendships I have ever experienced. One of the things I eventually learned about him was his ability to assess a situation was almost always spot on. That’s what he was doing when I met him. We won our respective presidencies the next year, and we became clear partners in the happily successful effort to merge the unions SAG and AFTRA. After so many years and so many tries, it happened with him at the helm. He often said, of all the things I have done in my life, and I have had a very good life, merging these two unions is the most important thing I have ever done. He loved this union. In the seven years that we worked together I can happily say that everything he did on behalf of this union was done with the best of intentions for this union. And he worked for us literally up until the very last day. Ken Howard, you were an amazing man of such incredible character, courage, honesty and intelligence. You were also an incredible friend who never failed to put a smile on my face and help me feel comfortable that the work we were doing together would work for our members across the country. You are terribly missed already.
-Mike Hodge, Vice President – New York, and New York Local President
Ken was a giant. And that wasn’t just because of his physical stature which could command any room, but because he had a heart that was even bigger. Ken went out of his way to help others and fix problems wherever he saw them. For Ken there was no bigger problem facing performers than being divided in two unions, and he worked tirelessly to erase that problem – to make merger a reality. History will record the creation of SAG-AFTRA as the most significant accomplishment of his leadership, but he didn’t rest on his laurels. He continued at the helm of our union for these last fours years so the track could be laid to make SAG-AFTRA the most powerful entertainment and media union in the world. Well done, dear friend. I'm proud and grateful to have been along for the ride. My love to Linda. We’re keeping her in our thoughts and prayers.
-Rebecca Damon, National and New York Board Member and SAG-AFTRA Foundation Board Member
Ken Howard was a remarkable leader and an extraordinary man. He was sweet, funny, smart, and really tough. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he had time for everyone. For decades we had tried to merge our two unions and, finally, through Ken’s leadership and persistence, we got it done. We will be forever grateful. I will miss him terribly.
“I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There is nothing more to say.
The poem ends.
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.”
-Jenny O’Hara, National and Los Angeles Local Board member
Ken was a consummate actor, of course. I first met him years ago on a film. He was an absolute treat to work with as a fellow performer – fun and generous. Few performers of his stature, however, can match his dedication to improving the lot of others, whether it be teaching the new generation, supporting charitable causes, or leading our union on to strength and unity. SAG-AFTRA members and entertainment industry professionals should all understand how deeply he believed in achieving fairness and real progress for the working rank and file, and creating meaningful content to influence the world for the better. He was a much beloved performer, a thoughtful visionary, a steadfast and steadying leader, and a very dear and devoted friend. I will miss him more than my words can express, so I will quote one of his favorite playwrights:
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet Prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
-Ellen Crawford, National Board Member and Second Vice President, Los Angeles Local
It is incredibly difficult to put in to words the impact that someone has had on one's life. It is even more difficult when the impact was so huge or when that someone is a person who was larger than life, brilliant, extraordinarily talented, famous, accomplished and a personal hero. In this case, that someone is Ken Howard, and he was all those things and more. He was also a dear friend, a confidant and had become, in the 10 years that I knew him, very much a father figure. Perhaps that is why I cherished every time he'd give me a wink and a sideways smile as if to say, "Ya done good, kid." Why I hung on every word when he was telling me stories of his days on Broadway or sharing anecdotes about some actor or director we both loved and with whom he had worked. Why his fierce support for my ongoing fight for recognition and protection of those who work in performance capture gave me the will to get back up and fight again and again. And why my fellow board and committee members at both SAG and SAG-AFTRA are now my family. Because that is what we were to him. Every member and employee of this union was his family. He cared that deeply about them and their well-being. There are so many sacrifices that he made for the good of this union and its members that most will never know about. But don't ever doubt that he made them, and did so out of love for his profession all who are a part of it. It was one of the great honors of his life to represent SAG-AFTRA members as their president. It is one of the great honors of my life to have called him my friend. Rest in peace, Big Dog. I'll never stop missing you.
-Woody Schultz, National and Los Angeles Local Board Member